Heart of Stone - Book 3: Souls Entwine

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Chapter 28 - Aubree (Part 2)

Dark eyes pierced right through Aubree’s soul as she walked into the conference room, her hand holding Stone’s.

Those same dark eyes that caught her attention six years ago at a house party during her first week at college.

Jackson always had this way of holding himself, exerting energy that demanded attention without ever uttering a word. It was loud and proud, but he held himself with a relaxed, reserved disposition.

Standing against the back wall of the crowded living room, watching everyone else having a good time, he conversed with other party-goers and caught up with old friends he hadn’t seen in a long time.

Brooke didn’t go with her to the party. It was the one time her best friend didn’t attend a party with her, and maybe that removed the invisible barrier Aubree hadn’t realized existed between her and everyone else.

Brooke always had been protective of her, and that scared away most boys from ever trying to get close to her.

Without her best friend, the two other girls she came with disappeared into the crowd of people on the dance floor, leaving her alone to her own devices.

She felt his gaze before she saw him. That was something all the girls said they felt around him. It was just his way.

Or perhaps it was simply their imaginations wishing, hoping, that he had eyes on them?

It didn’t matter, and she went into the kitchen looking for a drink and maybe a guy bold enough to ask her to dance with him.

She didn’t have to wait long. Before she could take her first sip of beer, a guy was already trying to get her attention.

She couldn’t remember him at all because a minute into their conversation, Jackson brushed against her arm, stealing her attention and taking a protective stance next to her.

“You’re Aubree, Brooke’s friend, right?”

He leaned casually against the counter. His dark hair was longer back then, a little wilder and curled at the tips. A thin dark brown stubble along his jaw made him look older and more masculine, his face slightly leaner than it had been in high school.

Not a boy anymore, but a man. A man with a broad chest and thick muscular arms that girls wanted to be held against.

There was no air of mystery around him. He never exuded mystery, but rather put everyone around him at ease.

Aubree nodded, forgetting about the guy she was talking with as he quietly slipped away.

Though they had been formerly introduced many years ago in childhood, Jackson was always surrounded by people. Being two years older, his circle of friends didn’t include her, and she understood that.

Brooke held him in high regard, so she knew with him hanging around, she’d be safe from any lewd guys who got too drunk or pushy.

She said something about Brooke not being able to make it, and he nodded.

“Don’t worry. A friend of Brooke’s is a friend of mine. I got your back.”

Aubree wondered now if his words back then still applied as she and Stone walked up to the long table lined with older men and women with thinning gray hair. They peered out over the folds of wrinkles with hardened stares that would have made her shrink away, if not for the conviction she held within.

How many times would she and Stone have to endure this judgment? They had done nothing wrong, and yet, they would always be looked upon with contempt and prejudice, like a pair of criminals guilty of a crime they didn’t commit.

Stone had been through enough. Struggled enough. Endured enough.

Was it too much for others to let him live his own life? Everyone made mistakes, yet his were constantly held over him.

She could see it before her now. The way those aged eyes studied her. Taking in her scent. Wrinkling their noses before their attentions shifted over to Stone gripping her hand tightly in his.

Jackson swore under his breath. “What’s going on here?”

Aubree held his dark eyes with her own, ignoring the others that feasted upon her and Stone, dripping with disdain.

Once friends—acquaintances—and nothing more.

Stone released her hand and they both raised their palms up in greeting.

“Blessings from the Goddess—” Stone began but was cut off.

“The Goddess does not permit such acts as taking a human female as your mate,” an older man spat.

Jackson immediately raised his hand to silence the old man. “Has your age dulled your senses? This is no ordinary human before us.”

A chorus of growls reverberated around the room before they were drowned out with the rising of Stone’s own.

“Question my mate and our bond, and you question the Goddess Herself,” Stone said to silence them.

Aubree surveyed the elders as they shifted their weights in their seats. Eyes darted around as silent conversations took place in the hidden recesses of their minds.

One set of eyes remained fixed on her, darting away briefly to focus on Stone before returning back to her.

Quiet. Pensive.

Even at the party six years ago, those dark eyes watched over her from across the room as she found the two friends she came with and joined them on the dance floor. Those eyes would follow her back into the kitchen to refill her drink, where he would brush up against her arm again.

She turned to him. Flashed him a smile and received one in return.

Handing him a drink, she asked him if he was enjoying himself.

Nodding, he set the drink down without lifting it to his lips.

“Really? You’re just standing to the side and watching. I never pegged you to be a wallflower,” she had said.

He shrugged. “I enjoy watching and seeing others have fun.”

She invited him out on the dance floor with him, but he shook his head.

“Can’t dance?” she teased.

His lips quirked up a touch higher in the left cheek. “You could say that.”

They chatted casually for a few more minutes while she downed her drink and went back out on the dance floor.

Without Brooke around to keep her in check, a feeling of alcohol-induced freedom encouraged her to be bolder. To allow a random guy to lean into her, touch her swaying hips, and grind against her. A thin sheen of sweat coated his skin, the heat rising off his body as she swayed against him. He pressed a smile against her ear as she blushed and asked her to join him for a drink.

She felt those dark eyes follow her to the kitchen as she helped herself to a third cup of beer while she chatted with the stranger.

A fourth cup had her going outside with him on the porch for some fresh air. Laughing and chatting. Shoulders brushing against shoulders as they leaned over the wooden railing of the porch. Boldness increasing with each swallow of alcohol.

Another group of college kids came out to light up a blunt. Friends of his. They passed it around and he asked her if she wanted a drag.

She’d never tried weed before and in her intoxicated mind, she threw caution to the wind as it brushed her hair from her face and nipped at her hot skin.

The sensation burned, making her cough. They all laughed, including herself as the stick made another round in the group. A second drag had her coughing again and deciding against a third. Her mind was already dulling more than she had ever experienced before. Laughing without knowing why. Leaning against a stranger that put his arm around her as he continued to get high with his friends, his voice fading in and out with the ever-increasing fog within.

Smoke twisted and curled before the breeze picked it up.

She grew drowsy as she rested her head against a firm chest and closed her eyes.

His friends went back inside and he asked her to dance again.

She shook her head, wanting to instead sit outside and clear her head a bit. Too unsteady even to walk on her own now.

She laughed at herself and how odd walking suddenly was. Ungracefully, she planted her butt on the grass and found her back leaning against his chest as he wrapped his arms around her, his legs drawn up at the sides.

She was looking up at the sky as he swept her hair away from her shoulder, exposing her neck.

It was almost a full moon, but not quite.

She giggled and pulled away as his nose brushed up her neck, the unfamiliarity tickling her.

“You smell good.”

She remembered how odd that sounded. How she probably stank of sweat and weed with beer breath.

His arms were strong, warm, and relaxing. It felt good to be held, to feel special with this guy’s complete attention on her.

He pressed his lips to the corner of her jaw under her ear.

The sensation tickled again at first as the blood rushed to her face, but lessened with each kiss placed gently thereafter down her neck. She became aware of his hand on her bare thigh as it slid up to the hem of her short-shorts.

Her heartbeat quickened.

She didn’t have as much experience as some girls her age, but her last boyfriend made similar advances. The relationship only lasted a couple of months with heavy petting and make-out sessions before trading her for an easier girl.

Things were moving faster with the weed and alcohol numbing her mind and heightening the sensations across her skin.

Toxic touches.

Her stomach coiled with a need that should have sent alarms firing off in her mind to back up and slow things down, but all sense of reason had long since blown away on the breeze.

Not once had she questioned what she was doing as his lips moved across her shoulder, or the sweet hunger of desire that now moistened her panties as his other hand slipped under her shirt. This wasn’t some high school kid fumbling around. This was an older college guy. He knew what he was doing as he made her skin tingle, her breath come in fast as his palm caressed her stomach.

He returned to the curve of her neck and grasped it in a hot open-mouthed kiss that made her moan.

He smiled against her sizzling skin. “Do you like that?”

She hummed a yes.

His hand slid up her stomach and groped her breast, earning him another moan.

“Does that feel good?”

The thin padding of her bra separated his hand from the pebbling tip of her nipple as an ache filled her with the need to feel his palm against her breast.

Yes, it felt good, and she turned to clasp his lips with hers as she moaned her need for more.

That was when he came. His dark eyes piercing through her fog as he called her name.

Jackson.

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